Somehow the Wetaskiwin Curling Club and the Wetaskiwin Gymnastics were put in a position of justifying why they were vying for the same recreational space in the curling club facility at the June 29 meeting of Wetaskiwin city council. President of the curling club, Scot Lorenson and president of the gymnastics club, Joe Letourneau, each took a turn sitting beside the director of community services, which includes recreation, Kevin Lucas in front of council and each had a turn presenting arguments.
The question is why? Why are two local recreation clubs finding they had to write editorials, prepare (professional) presentations to present to council and bring support delegations to the meeting to show physical support for each of their causes.
Agenda items at the June 29 meeting included: (1) Representatives from the Wetaskiwin Curling Club to discuss concerns they have with respect to possible changes that may occur regarding the use of the curling rink. The facility is an eight sheet facility and consideration has been given to provide half of this space to the gymnastics club for their use. City council accepted the presentation of the Wetaskiwin Curling Club as information and (2) Representatives from the Wetaskiwin Gymnastics Club will be in attendance to discuss their clubs’ user space needs and the possibility of utilizing a portion of the curling rink to alleviate this issue. City council accepted the presentation of the Wetaskiwin Gymnastics Club as information.
Scot Lorenson, President of the Wetaskiwin Curling Club provided the views of the curling club to council. “You are receiving this package from the board of the Wetaskiwin Curling Association because we have become aware of some disheartening and troubling news. It is our understanding that city administration is offering half of the curling rink to the local gymnastics club and perhaps to other service clubs. We thought this to be a ‘rumour’ as city administration had at no time approached our board formally indicating our current space, which we have occupied for 38 years, is now up for ‘rent’.
“However, when the ice-maker came upon the president of the gymnastics club and a city administrator taking measurements to erect a wall right down the middle of the facility, reducing our ice sheets by half, we realized this was not a rumor. As a prime stakeholder for this facility, we believe that we are entitled to fair treatment, total transparency and integrity from city administration. Almost all of the information that we have received, since the wall was measured up, has come from people within the gymnastics club. There has been no attempt by city administration to consult with the Wetaskiwin Curling Association regarding the city’s desire ‘to rent’ space within the curling facility, nor to keep us informed of any plans or timeline. The lack of openness on the part of the city administration is reprehensible and reflects very badly on the municipality of Wetaskiwin, including all elected officials.”
Letourneau stated they have investigated numerous options for their athletes and coaches; adding on to the front of our current building; and leasing the remainder of our current facility and raising the roof in our current facility. Since none of these seemed to be feasible financially or structurally, Letourneau and the gymnastics club pursued other options. “We considered leasing space on 57 Street west of the auto mile, leasing of the old Aboussafy Centre pool, leasing other commercial space, building our own facility and finally leasing of the south half of the current curling club facility.
“The curling club space appears to the best option available to us. We would fund the building renovations estimated at $80,000 to $100,000. This is much more affordable than our charity attempting to build an appropriate facility.”
Letourneau suggests that a new facility will enhance the school phys ed program, enhance competitive athlete training and ultimately produce national level gymnastics athletes. “Gymnastics is a growing sport. A proper gym in a community is now akin to having proper arenas, baseball diamonds or any sport facility.”
Both clubs, their executives, members, volunteers and supporters are to be commended on the professionalism shown after being put in a competitive mode vying for the same space.
But then Lorenson cuts through to the chase. “The Wetaskiwin Curling Association board suspects that the proposed ‘dual’ use of the ice area is financially motivated. In the proposed lease, we are to pay the same rent for (four) sheets of ice as what we pay currently for eight sheets. The board can only assume that the gymnastics club will be subject to a similar rent schedule if not more, as they run year round.
“This type of behavior by a municipality towards its community based service associations and clubs does appear as a money grab and portrays the administration and council in a poor light. There are many examples within Alberta where recreation centers are fully subsidized by their municipalities. To put it plainly and simply the Wetaskiwin Curling Association has a need for all eight sheets of ice.” Lorenson put forward examples illustrating the need for all eight sheets of ice.
Later in the meeting council was presented with a business case outlining the potential for creating a shared space within the existing curling facility. Council did not make a decision but instructed administration to negotiate and execute agreements with both the curling club and the Wetaskiwin Gymnastics Club that would accommodate both users. A report is to be presented to council at the July 20 council meeting.
The business case stated, “The City of Wetaskiwin has an opportunity to generate additional revenue from the existing curling rink facility, to improve facility usage and to enhance the ability of the gymnastics club to provide services.” It also stated, “Keeping in line with the City of Wetaskiwin Strategic Plan 2015-2018 and our goal, The City of Wetaskiwin is a proud community of engaged citizens”.